With the growth of technologies that make us better connected and better informed at every hour of the day, the barrier between work and home life has never been thinner.
While we all want to be able to respond to any situation as soon as it arises, there becomes a danger of getting sucked into a culture where 24-hour responsiveness is the norm, leading anything outside of your work life to suffer as a result. What’s more, a 24/7 style of leadership can actually sap productivity from your enterprise and end up being detrimental to your business—not to mention every other aspect of your life.
While maintaining the sweet spot between work and the rest of your life can be difficult, there are some small things you can do to help you get to a more balanced life.
Tune Out the Constant Notifications
Ever settle down to what is shaping up to be a productive work session only to find, an hour later, that a lot of time has passed, but not a lot of progress has been made? With email and text message notifications endlessly popping up, it’s no wonder that focused time is at premium in the modern workspace.
As Jessica Stillman writes for Inc, “Science shows that to make a total addict out of a rat, you need only follow a simple procedure–give it pleasurable snack pellets at random times and in random quantities. The uncertainty will keep your rat coming back obsessively to see when it’s going to hit the tasty pellet jackpot.” Phone notifications and other the other little buzzes and bleeps that fill our day operate the same way— a random, unpredictable stimulus that can happen at any time during our day and prompt us to complete a task.
It can be extremely difficult to get out of this cycle, especially when it makes us feel more productive than we actually are. To keep yourself focused on the task at hand, adjust the settings on your notifications so that only the truly urgent is coming through in real time. Unless you’re an on-call trauma surgeon, it’s unlikely that most correspondence can’t wait an hour for a reply!
Schedule Time With Yourself
In The One Thing, Gary Keller’s guide to getting things done while figuring out a sensible way to maintain a work life balance, he advocates a simple yet effective approach to effectively managing your personal time while working with at high productivity levels.
The essence of the approach is to make sure that you schedule time with yourself. The key is to block out time for yourself to focus on working on the one most important thing that will make everything else easier. “The amazing thing is when people ask themselves the question, they are almost always accurate. People instinctively know what matters most. If you’re not sure, look to the people who came before you.”
Keller’s advice is to treat this period of work like you’re going to the movies. When you set aside time for a film, you turn off your phone, you get some snacks, in short you do everything you can to make sure that when you sit down in front of the screen your time is uninterrupted and focused.
A Balanced Life Means Cutting Down on Maximizing Focus
It’s easy and natural to separate your daily time into distinct chunks. You get a cup of coffee, sit down at your desk, reply to a few emails, and then move on to the daily things that are relatively routine while you “warm up” to the more difficult work you have ahead of yourself.
While it’s definitely useful to change modes throughout the day, often these routine things can balloon out and turn into “productive procrastination,” leaving you with less time than you thought you had to complete the more important work on hand. Instead, reverse that schedule, checking off the most important—not the most urgent—tasks first so that they don’t have the opportunity to get buried by endless urgent but far less important to-do’s.
Use Pre-Scheduling to Get Daily Tasks Out of the Way
A key to helping yourself towards a more balanced life is to find any way you can to use the tools that are available to help you take care of the routine stuff without having to think about it.
A good example is social media content. It can become a slog to log into your social media suite, then have to sit down and think about what kind of content to post, when to post it, and to set reminders or make a note to make sure that it gets done i real-time.
Scheduling tools can help immensely with this. With Hootsuite, SproutSocial, or Buffer, you can bundle these scattered little tasks into one chunk of focused work time, and check social media off the list for the rest of the week. Of course, make sure to still check in occasionally, especially if something major has happened in the news, so as to avoid a tone-deaf posting.
Use a Virtual Assistant to Help Save Time for a Balanced Life
With the rise of remote work and distributed office capabilities, virtual assistants are a growing field, and one that you should take advantage of.
Although it’s less personal than hiring someone full-time to manage your schedule, a virtual assistant can still take a major chunk out of the routine tasks that often bog you down. They can spearhead research, confirm meetings, and do routine follow ups that would otherwise slowly but surely chip away at your productive and focused work time.
Virtual assistants are also not just limited to the workplace. With an apps like TaskRabbit, Handy, and Bizzby, the definition of what type of work can be outsourced has broadened. You can get your place cleaned, get some help moving to a new apartment, or even get your kitchen sink fixed just by swiping through a few screens, leaving you with much more time available for work or for fun.
What You Can Do Right Now
Schedule time with yourself each day to focus on the most important thing you want to achieve.
Take extra steps to make sure that the time you’ve blocked off is truly focused and uninterrupted.
Use tools to chunk more scattered work together, rather than in little blocks each day.
- Consider virtual assistants and other help with day-to-day tasks.
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